To hellraiser and back
In the decade since he was “discovered” by Joel Schumaker, Colin Farrell has worked with many of Hollywood’s biggest directors, earned a place among the top celebrity bad boys of all time, become a father, and, lately, found his mellower side. It’s been o
IN NEIL JORDAN’S upcoming Ondine, our own Colin Farrell – currently looking bronzed and healthy beneath a hectare of tattoos – plays Syraceuse, a Cork fisherman who finds an exotically accented young woman curled in his net. Later, it begins to look as if she might be a class of Celtic mermaid. Syraceuse, formerly a heavy boozer, now on the Tizer, has reformed his ways, in part because he now has to care for a child with special needs.
Interviews with movie stars involve a bit of cautious finessing: we’ll certainly talk about the new film, but both interviewer and actor know that the private life will also have to be addressed. By taking the role in Ondine, however, Farrell almost seems to be inviting us to nudge our way into his living room.
Now off the drink, following a decade of festivities, Farrell himself has a child with special needs. Young James Padraig – whose mother, like the equivalent character in Ondine, is separated from dad – has a rare, serious neuro-genetic disorder.
“I was going to say that the similarities between Syraceuse and me were superficial, but, you know, they’re not,” he says. “But the script is so good, it allowed me the option of objectivity. I have been off the sauce for five years. He’s been off for two. He has a daughter who has her problems. Thank God, my son is in great shape. There’s nothing terminal. But certainly the trials faced are similar.”
Of course, Farrell is never ever hard to talk to. Despite being the target of outrageous amounts of ludicrous gossip, he will not evade hard questions in interviews or blub about supposed invasions of privacy. Indeed, he is, perhaps, a little too open. I remember, at the premiere of one rather dodgy film (you can easily work out which), watching him being dangerously honest about the picture’s underwhelming dialogue. “I did it to work with Al Pacino,” he quipped to a packed cinema. “I mean the script’s not going to win any Oscars. Is it?”
“Did I? That was a bit of honesty then,” he laughs. “If I am asked questions now, I am a bit more wary of the weight of words. I am aware of the significance of putting opinions and ideas out there. I understand the effect that words can have. A while ago, I read some things that I had said about ex-girlfriends. I don’t think I said bad things, but it was disrespectful to talk about that stuff.”
Happily, his (relative) restraint has not dimmed his ability to perk up when a microphone trundles into view. Recall his first-class quip when receiving his Golden Globe for In Bruges. “They must have counted the votes in Florida,” he said. He must have had that one prepared.
“No. Not at all,” he laughs. “It was on the fly, man. Maybe that was a moment of inspired genius. Look, that was just a wonderful moment. Is that what we are in he business for? No. But it’s still a lot of fun.”
Anyway, all this is a long-winded way of confirming that our biggest movie star generally comes across as a darn good egg. Dredge through his past and you will, of course, encounter the odd spate of fallingover-while-shouting anecdotes, but Farrell has always – as kindergarten teachers have it – played well with others.
It’s a little over a decade since Colin Farrell, now 33, first nudged his head over the parapet. Raised in Castleknock, the son of a former Shamrock Rovers footballer, he attended Dublin’s Gaiety School of Acting before securing roles in the TV movie Falling for a Dancer and the TV series Ballykissangel. Shooting Ondine on the Beara Peninsula in Co Cork brought back many memories.
“I’ve always loved that part of the world. Twelve years ago, we shot Falling for a Dancer there. That’s where it all started.
Colin Farrell in Neil Jordan’s Ondine. Photographs (above and cover):’’ Patrick Redmond
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